The crazy coincidence is that two months ago, when I was wandering around Borders reading this, that, and the other, I stumbled upon some great books. One of them just happened to be Viki’s book The Caregiver’s Path to Compassionate Decision-Making. If you work with older adults, I *highly* recommend getting this book!
The best story in that book is called “The Day My Dad Was Shot In The Dementia Unit.” She relays a story about a daughter who took a phone call from her father. In her father’s mind, he had literally just been shot. In our reality, he was safe and sound in his memory care community.
But in his own mind and body, he was experiencing a severe wound from a gunshot. He was feeling all the emotions. He was narrating the details of how it happened. He was scared and trembling.
What could she do? This brings up the comparison between reality orientation and memory validation.
If she had oriented him to reality, then she would correct him and redirect him into what was actually happening in our reality. But she decided that his pain and his real emotions needed validation and time to process instead. She listened. She repeated his words back to him. She let him know that she was there with him on the phone (as close to his side as she could be). Then she listened more.
She waited with him on the phone until the intensity of his emotions had dissipated. He calmed down and eventually felt safe enough to hang up the phone and get on with the day.
Incredible story. Viki’s point is to use the heart to empathize, and use the mind to take action. Amen, sister. You gotta get this book.
What are your thoughts? Have you had any experiences where compassion in listening overrules correction?
Like this topic? Check out these posts:
Dementia and Music Therapy in the Wall Street Journal
Alzheimer’s Communication: Validation Versus Approval
Before Your Older Adults Session, Make Sure…